The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

No Escape

March 3, 2006 | 22 Comments

Escapee from the Meme Machine broke up with a boyfriend, “Mike,” who pretended to be an atheist while secretly going to church several times a week and serving as a Eucharist minister. Although she hasn’t engaged in any dishonesty, she suddenly finds herself in a similar situation with her new guy, “Jim”:

I dumped Mike for lying to me about being a theist. But I have yet to tell Jim that I am an atheist. Why? Because right after I met him, his grandmother — who raised him and to whom he was very very close — had a stroke and died suddenly. Just before Thanksgiving and her 80th birthday. Obviously he was crushed. Even now, he is still greiving. When he talks about her, my heart breaks for him.

He’s not overtly religious — but rather a twice a year xian (easter and xmas), though no church. But, he has mentioned his grandmother being in a “better place” and how there must be a life after this one. He loved her very much and still misses her.

I don’t think my atheism would be a deal-breaker for Jim. Under normal circumstances, I doubt he’d care at all. But, how in the world am I supposed to tell him about the atheist aspect of myself without it looking like I’m just pissing on his grief? How can I tell him I don’t believe in an afterlife when someone he loved very dearly has just died?

But, on the other hand, I feel like a fraud not telling him. I haven’t claimed to be a theist (unlike mike) — I’ve simply said that I don’t celebrate xmas and that I don’t believe in hell. Come to think of it, he may have already guessed.

If anyone is out there — what would you do?

I wonder what the God Squad would say about this, if they gave advice to atheists. What do you think she should do?


22 Responses to “No Escape”

  1. The No God Boy
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 2:32 pm

    I say do whatever she wants. The one nice thing about theism is the ability to act like a complete ass all ones life and still get all washed clean just in time for the bus to the next life.

    I would only feel the need to be honest with another athiest. With the theists I would, in holding them to their beliefs, do whatever served me best now and when caught pop out the forgiveness card.

    Remember, lying or not its not his place to judge.

  2. Mookie
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 2:36 pm

    She should explain how she feels about telling him that she is an atheist, and then tell him she’s an atheist. It does not get any easier as time goes by. Besides, he might find it disgusting and leave her, in which case it would be better that happen sooner rather than later.

  3. Jahrta
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 2:47 pm

    “Escapee from the Meme Machine broke up with a boyfriend, “Mike,” who pretended to be an atheist while secretly going to church several times a week and serving as a Eucharist minister.”

    Who the hell does that? I guess he kept it a secret from her (knowing it would be a deal breaker) because he enjoying ‘tappin dat ass.’ Surely there could be no other reason. If he actually cared about her, and believed in his faith in the slightest (and one can only gather that he must, given the fact he served as a eucharist minister and went several times a week to church – what a ‘tard) he would have made his views apparent in an effort to “save her soul.”

    My advice? I’ve been in a similar situation, and the best thing to do is just be there for the person in question, and keep your views to yourself on this until your friend or loved one is in a better frame of mind to discuss the aspect of an afterlife in any rational manner. Emotions tend to cloud the issue and take it to a place beyond the reach of logic and reason, as is always the case with matters of religion.

    It becomes far too easy to villainize someone if you approach them in a perceived moment of weakness to plead your case. More often than not it would be seen as an effort to foist your beliefs onto them, and would be as unwelcome to them as a theist approaching us if we lost someone we cared about, telling us “you’ll be reunited with them in the kingdom of heaven one day…if you denounce your heathen atheist ways.”

  4. Matt
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 3:49 pm

    I don’t see it as something that needs to be announced.

    Unless the other person obviously has strong views one way or another, in which case it wouldn’t be an issue. If the other person doesn’t have real religious views themselves (which, let’s face it, a twice a year christian is not a religious person) then it’s not something that needs to be announced. It’s not as if atheism is something that needs confessing, like an STD or something.

  5. Thorngod
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 3:50 pm

    I suggest she first ask herself whether he may be exaggerating his grief in order to play on her mothering instinct and get more sex or whatever than she might otherwise give. I’ve seen this ploy worked by several guys–and it worked like a wonder! But if this isn’t the possible case, I’d advise her to slap him hard a few times and bring him out of his self-pitying condition. If that doesn’t work, leave him alone for awhile and hope he gets enough consolation from Jesus or wherever else he can.

    March 3rd, 2006 @ 4:01 pm

    The dead Grandma is a moot point.

    She’s pissed for some guy having lied to her about his religion and now she is doing the same (about her atheism) to some other guy.

    She should fess up – ASAP!

  7. Choobus
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 4:51 pm

    well, how big is Jim’s cock? This must surely factor in to any decision made.

  8. Mister Swill
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 5:36 pm

    I don’t see how being an Atheist disallows for the possibility of an afterlife. There’s a difference between disbelieving in all of the afterlife stories we hear from various religions and believing we know everything about the universe.

    For all we know, after we die we might wake up and discover that life was a long computer simulation that was training us for the “real world.” The point is that saying “I’m an Atheist” does not have to mean “I think you’re stupid for holding onto a glimmer of hope that your Grandma is in ‘a better place.'”

    Here are two ways I comfort myself (and others) about death:

    1. As we all know from physics classes, matter is neither created nor destroyed; it simply changes forms. That includes the matter of which we are made. After we die, that material will decompose and become part of other things, including living things. Yes, as a child I used to look at myself and wonder if any cells in my body had at one time been part of various historical figures. This reasoning is also why I want my body to be cremated rather than embalmed and buried in a sealed coffin.

    2. If there is no actual soul, then “life” is a phenomenon of perception. A big part of Jim’s Grandmother’s existence as a living person was other people’s perception of her as such. That perception still exists, so a big part of her still exists. Or, as the clich√© goes, she lives on in the memories of others.

  9. Crosius
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 7:03 pm

    I’ve always been a little embarrassed when someone confides in me about thier beliefs, because I never know quite what to do with the information. Should I reciprocate by disclosing my athiesm? Should I maintain neutrality? Should I feign interest? Support?

    Lately, I just ignore the religious content and react to the secular meat of the conversation. Perhaps Jim’s talk of “a better place” is just a retreat to the nostalgic certainty of a more naive period in his faith/life. Treating it as the important content of the utterance might be missing the point. Maybe, for now, it would just be better to stick to secular sympathy: (“I miss her too,” “She was a very nice person,” shared recollections of happier times, etc.). Later, after Jim has assimilated his grief, if he cares to ask, be neutral but honest. It’s not like she’s “stepping out” on him to “practice her athiesm.” She’s not hiding a part of herself, or excluding him from athiest-related life-experiences (whatever those would be).

    I tend to disagree with the “athiesm does not preclude the possibility of afterlife,” angle.

    As an athiest, I do not believe in god because I see no evidence for its action in the universe. As a rationalist, I equate this complete lack of evidence, coupled with a lack of necessity, with a low probability of existence and subsequently dismiss the idea of god(s) as unlikely. This same chain of reasoning applies to telepathy, sasquatches, ghosts and the afterlife. How can I suspend my disbelief in just one unlikely thing like the idea of a continuing, discorporate existence after death?

    Software requires the hardware to maintain it’s existence. It is likely that Mind is software run on the hardware of the Brain. If the Brain stops working, the Mind ceases to operate.

    Further, I don’t care at all what happens to me after I’m dead. I’ll be dead. Ergo, there will be no me to care. If fashions change and people decide to eat me, light me on fire or dance on my head 10 seconds after I die, what possible impact could that possibly have on me? “I” will have utterly, completely, permanently vanished from the universe 10 seconds earlier. I cannot collect or process the experience of what happens to me after I die, so what possible concern could I have for what that experience is?

    Strictly speaking, I always want to add “Of course, if you can think of a better way to split things up, go for it.” to the end of my Will, because dead people are much worse at reacting to changes in circumstance in the world around them than living people, so in any negotiation between the two groups, the dead ought to defer to the living.

  10. greg
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 7:29 pm

    You can’t proove there is god
    You can’t proove there is no god.
    It doesn’t matter.
    Give up.
    These creatures are hopeless,
    an embaressment to the race, the human race.

  11. Mister Swill
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 8:04 pm


    Telepathy, sasquatches, ghosts, and gods are phenomena that are alleged to occur within our observable environment. They are also phenomena that, despite innumerable alleged encounters, repeatedly fail to produce any irrefutable recorded evidence. The same is true of many specific versions of the afterlife, such as a soul escaping the body and ascending to a heaven up in the clouds.

    The general idea of an afterlife, however, is not bound to the same limitations. My example of this life being a simulation has absolutely no evidence for or against it (that’s why I used the phrase “for all we know”). Evidence is based on what we observe. How can we have evidence of whether what we observe is real?

    If you don’t buy that, consider this analogy:

    Have intelligent creatures from other planets visited modern day Earth? Well, very few (if any) alleged UFO sightings alleged to be alien spacecraft ever fail to be explainable by something more likely and mundane (this was once a hobby of mine), so i’d say “probably not.”

    Are there organisms somewhere in the universe practicing interstellar space travel? Who knows? At this point in human history, we have been able to observe up close only a tiny fraction of the universe, so the vast majority of it is simply outside of our knowledge. We can only guess at such things.

  12. bUCKET__
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 10:55 pm

    Is an afterlife possible? Yes.
    Do we have reason to believe there is one? No.

    Emotions are squishy things, so try not to step in them too much.

  13. SBW
    March 4th, 2006 @ 1:31 am

    She should tell him that she is an atheist ASAP. The fact that she is sitting around thinking about the fact that he doesn’t know tells me that she needs to get her beliefs out in the open and make sure that they are on the same page. Although she may be willing do date a person of faith, he may not be able to see himself in a long-term committed relationship with an atheist. Better for both of them to know the truth about each other from the get go. As someone above said, the sooner they both know about each others convictions the better.

    Plus, if she really likes this guy and believes that the feelings are mutual, why should she feel uncomfortable talking to him about being an atheist?

  14. MobileSuitPilotX
    March 4th, 2006 @ 1:51 am

    Mister Swill,

    I tend to concur with your opinion that a very logical, physical process could exist that we would call an “afterlife”. Just like the sasquatch or UFOs or whatever, there’s probably a logical explanation for observed phenomena…even if it’s just people hallucinating.

    The idea of a magical sky-daddy resembling any figure any religion has been able to create seems very unlikely to the point of absurdity and I think “purpose” is a human invention, so I go to bat for the Atheist team.

    I will reserve judgement for the existence or non-existence of an afterlife until we get our shit together and learn a bit more about physics, the brain, and the universe in general. We’re in our intellectual and technological infancy. There might be a logical explanation.

    ::looks around:: Nice place you got here, TRA.

  15. qedpro
    March 4th, 2006 @ 2:19 am

    It sounds like telling him you’re an atheist is like saying, look here, “I’m normal and I know you’re not but you give great head so I’m letting it slip.”

  16. a different tim
    March 4th, 2006 @ 5:29 am

    Is that a problem? :)

    Presumably atheism is presumably important to Escapee, since it was a deal breaker before and she runs a blog which has loads of atheism in it and everything. Her boyfriend should know this important thing.

    Coming out and saying “I’m an atheist” can, I guess, seem a bit pompous (though that’s never stopped me) and maybe confriontationsl (again, that’s never stopped me but then it might in that situation) but as an alternative why not mention the blog in conversation sometime? He’ll surely go take a look at it. It’s quite a good way to let someone know what’s important to you without being in their face about it. I have friends who keep livejournals etc for much the same reason (and I have found that some friends of mine have views I never knew about on some issues, without having to start an argument or give or take offence).

  17. a different tim
    March 4th, 2006 @ 5:32 am

    [edit] presumably presumably…..arse.

  18. a different tim
    March 4th, 2006 @ 6:55 am

    I just looked at her blog in more detail, and apparently it’s all sorted now anyway.

  19. Chris Treborn
    March 5th, 2006 @ 6:23 pm

    Telling the truth is always the right thing to do. It really is that simple.

  20. Lya Kahlo
    March 6th, 2006 @ 8:22 am

    “how big is Jim’s cock?”

    Big enough to make me want to avoid deal breakers. ;)

    Having had a death in my family very recently gave me the opportunity to speak with him about it. He asked me where I thought my family member is now, and I came completely clean.

    It didn’t phase him.

  21. SolidusSpriggan
    March 8th, 2006 @ 8:58 am

    I will not at all make a moral stance here, but rather a brief comment on my strategy. Almost as soon as I meet a girl she will know I am an atheist because if she does not know this and is even remotely religious or tolerant of religion then problems will arise, as they have in the past. How long you have known this boy I don’t know, but I highly recommend against dating someone with religious beliefs. But if the love has taken you over then I suggest you tell him quite honestly. If it hurts his feelings beyond repair then he wasn’t the man for you because anyone so devout would not long tolerate an atheist. A reasonable theist would not be insulted and this would show that he is someone you will be able to live with, even if he is slightly delusional.

  22. Some Guy
    March 10th, 2006 @ 8:30 am

    I completely understand what she is going through. My girlfriend knew I was an atheist when her father passed away. She is not religious, however she is spiritual and believes that there is something after we die. She was very upset when her father passed away, and then she brought up my atheism. She was angry at me for not believing that her father’s spirit continued on somewhere other than in our minds. It took several months for her to finally calm down and stop being mad at me for not believing.
    At some point, you HAVE to let your partner know how you feel about such things, because something like a death in the family can really bring religion out in a person, and the better prepared they are (i.e. already knowing that you are an atheist) the less heartache you both will have to go through.

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